Fifth in the Mughals’ dynastic line Shahjahan was Jahangir’s second son. He was born in 1592 of his Rajput queen Bhanumati and was named Khurram. He succeeded his father in early 1628 after the death of the latter in late 1627, though not before defeating other contenders to the throne in the war for succession. Like his father Jahangir and grandfather Akbar, he too chose to rule under a title, and proclaimed himself as Shahjahan – the Ruler of the World.
Mumtaj Mahal, the title that Shahjahan bestowed upon his wife Arjumand Banu Begum after he ascended the Mughal throne, came in his life when he was merely fifteen. Though it took five years to finally accomplish, his marriage was fixed with her in 1607 itself. It seems that Shahjahan, fascinated by her exceptional beauty when he saw her in the course of engagement ceremony, sought occasions to see her, and being the daughter of a Mughal army officer Etiqad Khan who was subsequently honoured with the title of Asaf Khan it was quite possible. Hence, despite that he was married to a Safavid princess in between, his forced five-year separation from Arjumand Banu Begum only further strengthened his fascination for her, and this love of his adolescent days had its final expression in the form of Tajmahal that Shahjahan built in her memory after her death in 1631.
Arjumand Banu Begum, soon after his marriage with her, emerged in Shahjahan’s life as his motivation and dynamism, and in every moment when he was without her he suffered with a sense of being incomplete. Her paramount beauty apart, she was his constant companion, his guide and advisor, and his real support, during all his military campaigns before and after his succession. Hence, when he succeeded to Mughal throne, he honoured her with the title of Mumtaj Mahal – ‘Chosen One of the Palace’, and acclaimed her as the Empress of Hindustan. Mumtaj Mahal bore by him fourteen children. It was while delivering her fourteenth child, when at Burhanpur accompanying her husband during a military campaign, that she died. This left a broken and incomplete Shahjahan to rule but without the glow that earlier enshrined his face. He built Tajmahal, her mausoleum, and after about a decade shifted her body from Burhanpur to it. Haunted by her memories Shahjahan decided to leave Agra. The great builder as he was, he built at Delhi his new fort, the Red Fort, and created a whole township Shahjahanabad and shifted to it.
Shahjahan fought dozens of battles, secured and compacted Mughal Empire and held its prestige as high as before; however, the history does not
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